US President Donald Trump
US President Donald Trump

US elections: How Trump coming back to power will impact H-1B visas

Approval rates of H-1B visas have been falling ever since Trump came to power, with applications increasingly being sent for further verification.

The high-pitched elections in the United States of America between current President Donald Trump and his Democratic challenger Joe Biden, are closely being monitored by Indians, one of the largest groups of foreign nationals who aspire to work in the US and make a living, most often on an H-1B visa.

US President Donald Trump, known for his anti-immigrant stance, on Tuesday, decided to cut back H-1B visas for foreign skilled workers and further tighten wage-based entry barriers stating that more than 5,00,000 Americans have lost their jobs because of "H1B non-immigrants".

According to Deputy DHS Secretary Ken Cuccinelli about one-third of the people who have applied for H1B visas would be denied under the new rules.

An H-1B visa is provided to an individual with education or training that is equivalent to the completion of such a degree and has a recognition of expertise in the specialty. Typically granted for skilled workers from science, engineering, and information technology fields. Most technology companies hire Indians on this visa and send them to work in the US. Indians are the highest recipients of the H-1B visa, accounting for nearly 74% of the visas issued. 

This latest decision is in addition to the previous policy of suspending non-immigrant work visas, including H-1B visas, until the end of 2020, the election year. However, in a relief to the migrants, US district judge Jeffrey White of northern district of California, blocked the order of the Trump government, stating that the President has exceeded his authority.   

In June, amidst the pandemic when Trump announced of suspending H1-B visa, his administration claimed that the decision will provide 5.25 lakh jobs to the Americans. This policy was disapproved by several tech industries like Google, Amazon, Microsoft and Indian trade bodies like Information Technology Industry Council and Nasscom.

The increasing restrictions on immigrants is seen as a measure to appeal to Trump’s core voters, the Republicans. During the previous elections as well, his anti-immigration stance played a key role in voting him to power.

Several tech industry leaders have called this move ‘short-sighted’ that would affect the US economy. However, this is part of the “America First” campaign that aims to reduce legal and illegal immigration, stop Central American migrants entering at the U.S.-Mexico border and make it difficult for people to obtain refugee status.

These recent orders, however, are not the only tightening of H-1B visas that the country has seen during Trump’s presidency.

Approval rates of H-1B visas have been falling over the years, and applications have increasingly been sent for further verification as well.

United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) data shows that denial rates for new H-1B petitions increased to 29% between October 2019-March 2020, from 13% in FY17.

Restrictions have been placed on holders of H-4 visas as well, which are visas held by spouses of H-1B visa holders. While H-4 visa holders weren’t allowed to seek employment in the US, in 2015, former US president Barack Obama allowed spouses of H-1B visa holders who were in the process of obtaining a green card to work under H-4 EAD, an employment authorisation document.

However, Trump, on several occasions, has threatened to rescind this provision and ban spouses of H-1B visa holders from working in the US.

With Trump standing strong on his anti-immigration stance, the future of the H-1B visa continues to remain bleak in the US. Further restrictions in the form of wage levels, and further scrutiny is expected if Trump comes back to power.

His challenger, Biden, on the other hand, responding to Trump’s move in an assuring manner to the migrants had said, “immigrants help grow our economy and create jobs.”

Biden had also extended his support to the international students and announced that he will reverse Trump’s decision in July to restrict the entry of foreign students from some countries, if elected to power.

As these elections personally affect the lives of scores of Indian migrants and their families, many are hoping that Biden wins the elections. It is estimated that nearly 5,00,000 migrant workers are employed in the US on the H-1B visa.

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